The children at the Jr. NBA Clinic Tuesday night, presented by TaxAct, had one main question for Dāvis Bertāns and Dorian Finney-Smith: “why don’t you look the same in person like on TV?”

“Well, do I look better in person?” Finney-Smith asked proudly with a giant smile.

“No!” the kids screamed.

“Wait, how do I look?” he quipped. “What’s wrong with me?”

After a few moments of silence, Doe Doe decided he knew the answer: “It’s the makeup they put on us for commercials! It makes us look better!”

The kids shrieked at his reply, but the answer was enough to satisfy them. The youth also wanted the players to know that they look “much, much smaller on the court,” but for now, it would do.

Ahh, never a dull moment at a Mavs Academy Jr. NBA Clinic — which is the exact reason players are willing to take a night away from home to give back to the game and work with local youth.

It’s always a slice of humble pie, and the Mavs loved every moment with the kids. This really is what it’s all about.

Tuesday night in Dallas, Bertāns and Finney-Smith joined Mavs Academy coaches at Voice of Hope Ministries to celebrate the game with a Jr. NBA Clinic.

About 30 boys and girls participated in the event and the goal was to learn basketball fundamentals and develop core values, including teamwork, respect, and sportsmanship. The event also coincides with Women’s History Month, a time each March that the NBA and Mavericks actively promote the values of equality, equity, and inclusion for women and girls across the world.

It was a homecoming of sorts for the Dallas Mavericks because back in 2019, the Mavs Foundation renovated the Voice of Hope basketball court. The previous court had been there for 37 years before getting a complete overhaul. Now here we were, back three years later, and the center was thriving with plenty of space and room for all the children to race up and down the court.

Bertāns and Finney-Smith especially shined at this clinic, and they were the perfect duo to bring the excitement and thrill of the game to the youth. They both have plenty of experience with kids.

Bertāns father was a professional basketball player and is currently a youth coach. Meanwhile, his mother is a sports teacher and former high-level rower.

Finney-Smith is a father of three children, and his oldest daughter is now playing competitive basketball. In fact, Sinai just turned 12 over the weekend and had a slumber party. “I kept getting kicked out of their space,” Finney-Smith said. “She’s 12, so now she thinks she knows more than me.”

In other words, Dorian is fluent in kid-speak, so he can handle the teasing from some of the youth at the Jr. NBA Clinic.

The 6-7, 220-pound Finney-Smith has done many clinics with the Mavs since joining the franchise, and he’s always compassionate and engaging with the children. It’s a far cry from the smack-talking, ball-swatting, athletic defender who has evolved into one of the most versatile players in the league.

He’s beloved by Mavs fans and a key component to the Mavericks’ success this season.

Off the court, Doe is relaxed and always game for whatever. One moment he’s dancing for a new TikTok video, and the next, he’s bending down to help a preschooler work on his defensive stance.

Bertāns is equally as laid-back and seems to embrace all the new moments he’s had since arriving with the Mavs.

They both agree that winning five games in a row makes them appreciate nights like this even more.

“It makes everything a lot easier while winning,” Finney-Smith said. “I feel like the town has a better energy to it, too.”

Bertāns said it’s a joy to be back in Texas after spending time with the San Antonio Spurs from 2016-19. He said the Dallas support is incredible, and he likes the Mavs’ product on the court.

“Honestly, jumping in here during the middle of the season hasn’t been tough because the team chemistry is so good,” Bertāns explained. “I think that’s why the team is doing so well this season, and it’s been an easy adjustment for me coming here.”

Each year, the Dallas Mavericks and Mavs Academy host various Jr. NBA camps and clinics to promote love for the game. The clinics also give children the chance to meet their favorite stars up close and in a private environment.

The Mavericks players opened Tuesday night’s Jr. NBA Clinic by taking questions from the youth — nothing was off limits and at times, it was pretty hilarious. From there,  everyone hit the court to shoot, dribble and defend.

First up was the Mavs Academy’s infamous “Big Step” drill, and the players were excited to learn from the kids. Bertāns and Finney-Smith groaned as they bent down and tried to shuffle, but they seemed eager to keep going.

Finney-Smith was especially fond of shouting “D-UP!” with the youth.

Mavs Academy youth basketball manager Ronald Patton led the children through the Big Step drill. He’s a strong advocate of reaching student-athletes in under-served and impoverished communities where they might lack the resources and encouragement to assist them on and off the court.

“I feel like we’re put in positions for a reason,” Patton said. “One of the things that holds our kids back is exposure. I know this is something many inner-city kids don’t get to experience, and they probably stay 5 to 10 miles away from the Dallas Mavericks organization. I’m thankful that reaching these kids is at the forefront of everything our organization is doing right now.”

This week jumpstarts a busy time for the Mavs Academy because Spring Break Camps are back in person for 2022. The Academy will host hoops, dance, gaming and all-girls GEM camps in various locations between March 9-18.

It’s also been a prime time for the Dallas Mavericks and Mavs Foundation’s community team. Last week, head coach Jason Kidd announced plans to donate $5,000 per home win for the rest of the season. So far, his bill is already $15,000, and that money will go to local organizations to support youth programs.

Then last weekend, the players helped the Mavs Foundation raise an astounding $1.5 million to empower local organizations. Bertāns and Finney-Smith were there to help at the Mavs Ball and they didn’t hesitate to join Tuesday’s Jr. NBA Clinic.

Leaders at Voice of Hope said it’s touching to see superstar athletes take time away from their schedules to visit with local youth, many who they say can never afford to attend a game.

“I think it’s fantastic for the kids,” said Craig Panza, a spokesman with Voice of Hope. “They get to meet some players they see on TV, and most of all, it’s fun. The kids had a blast, and we are out here playing on the basketball court donated by the Mavs Foundation.”

Finney-Smith admits that he loves community events with children because he’s still a kid at heart. Every time he speaks to young people, he sees their dreams and goals reflecting back.

And sometimes, Doe even forgets that he’s no longer the young boy from Portsmouth, Virginia, who is just hoping to make it to the NBA.

He made it — and now he wants the same thing for young boys and girls in the community.

“It feels really good to be a part of this team and locker room,” Finney-Smith said. “I get to watch Luka and get a front-row seat. It’s a good feeling right now, especially coming off a few key wins and ones we needed. Now to be here with the kids is always great.”


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